Today at sundown starts the 9th of Av – Tisha B’Av – a day of fasting that is the culmination of the period of mourning known as Three Weeks, which started with the mini-fast on the 17th of Tammuz.
Three weeks and 1.944 years ago, on the 17th of Tammuz in the year 70CE, the Romans breached the walls of Jerusalem on their murderous march towards the destruction of the Second Temple. Tisha B’Av was also the day the First Temple was destroyed, in 587 BCE, and has been a marker for tragedy throughout Jewish history. On Tisha B’Av in the Exodus story, the spies came back from scouting the Land of Israel with their negative report, condemning us to another 40 years in the desert. On Tisha B’Av, 132 CE, 100,000 Jews were massacred by the Romans in Betar during the Bar Kokhba revolt. On Tisha B’Av, 1096 CE, the First Crusade exploded across Europe and the Holy Land, with 10,000 Jews murdered in the first month and over 1.2 million Jews massacred in total. On Tisha B’Av, 1290 CE, the Jews of England were expelled. On Tisha B’Av, 1306 CE, the Jews of France were expelled. On Tisha B’Av 1492, the Jews of Spain were expelled. On Tisha B’Av, 1914, the First World War broke out. On Tisha B’Av, 1942, the mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to the death camps began.
We remember tragedy that has befallen the Jewish people on Tisha B’Av, not just throughout history, but today as well. Today, a tractor rammed a bus in Jerusalem, killing one and injuring many more, and someone opened fire at Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus.
This Tisha B’Av has a deep sadness and a very real sense of tragedy. Less than two months ago, Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah were abducted and murdered. Less than a month ago, after sustained rocket fire from Hamas into cities and towns in Israel, Operation Protective Edge began.
At Livnot, our Onward Israel and Northern Exposure programs, who experience the current tragedy of war every day here, are also taking time to remember our historical tragedies. We eat a filling but simple meal this evening, and as the fast begins, travel to the ruins of an ancient Synagogue in the Galilee and spend time learning about tragedy throughout our history. Tomorrow, we watch a documentary film about a man who left everything behind to set out and make the world a better place, and discuss what each of us can do to learn from tragedy, and to fix the world.
Tragedy doesn’t leave the Jewish people. It is part of our past, our present, and sad to say our future. This day of so many tragedies, is one day we can stop to remember, to mourn, and when we break our fasts, to build a better tomorrow.